Monday, April 20, 2009

New York Times Magazine plays both sides of the "green lifestyle" issues: looking for moneyless utopia?


The New York Times Magazine, on Sunday April 19, 2009, offered several provocative pieces on the whole Green thing.

The main essay is “Why Isn’t the Brain Green?” by Jon Gertner, p 36, link here. The upshot of things is that “brain belief” tends to be tactical, not strategic. It’s hard enough for adults (forget the kids) to see around corners, and people tend not to get much satisfaction out of things that don’t bring a payoff. “What have you done for me, lately?” used to be the mantra on Wall Street. There’s not much ado in buying a cloth bag and using at the supermarket, or going to the trouble to recycle bath water.

That get’s back to what sound almost like Amish values: adaptive fellowship should be a good thing, and too much individual efficiency is bad.

However, the leadoff, “singles hitter” article by Paul Bloom, “Natural happiness: the self-centered case for environmentalism,” p. 11, takes a different track. Urban, industrialized civilization is a novelty (and scary to Luddites). He writes “children are irrepressible taxonomizers, placing the world of distinct individuals based on their appearance” and goes on to say that this tendency to classifiy beings is hard-wired, a kind of brain immunity.

But the scariest part is by Jon Mooallen, “The End is Near! (Yay!) with a detailed journal of utopian plans around Sandpoint, Idaho. Is this a reversion back to survivalism, the talk of small town real estate, the moralistic condemnation of globalization and core competencies so inherent in a global market economy? It talks about a network of “satellite” communities, each with a specialty (and most of them are low tech, like woodworking). There is talk that all will come to an end with $300 a barrel oil in a couple years and our capitalist, interconnected life becomes impossible. (Even Donald Trump says that oil prices will ruin the country again.) It sounds like a sci-fi world that is ready to get rid of fiat money entirely and live on karma alone.

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